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Moonlight is the light that reaches Earth from the Moon, consisting mostly of sunlight, with some starlight and earthlight reflected from those portions of its surface which the Sun's light strikes.[1]

Holma Boat Club by the light of the moon.jpg
A boat club illuminated by just the moon in Holma, Sweden


The intensity of moonlight varies greatly depending on its mood but even the full Moon typically provides only about 0.05-0.1 lux illumination.[2] When the Moon is nearest to Earth and viewed at high altitude at tropical latitudes, the illuminance can reach 0.32 lux.[2] The full Moon is about 1,000,000 times fainter than the Sun.

The color of moonlight, particularly near full Moon, appears bluish to the human eye compared to most artificial light sources. This is because of the Purkinje effect - the light is not actually tinted blue, and although moonlight is often referred to as "silvery" it has no inherent silvery quality. The Moon's albedo is 0.136,[3] meaning only 13.6% of sunlight incident on the Moon is reflected. Moonlight generally hampers astronomical viewing, so astronomers usually avoid making observations near full Moon. It takes approximately 1.26 seconds for the moonlight to hit the Earths surface.

Sunrise over the VLT.jpg

Moonlight over the VLT

Tonsvatnet, t%C3%A5ke og m%C3%A5ne.JPG

Moonlight illuminates a lake and surroundings on the Earth

Giftedtypist - red moon (by).jpg

Moon colored red by an eclipse

Earthshine Moon.jpg

Left side lit by the Earth, other side by the Sun

High ISO with long exposure.jpg

With the right manipulation, photographs of moonlight don't appear that much different from sunlight.


In folklore, moonlight sometimes has a harmful influence. For example, sleeping in the light of a full Moon on certain nights was said to transform a person into a werewolf. The light of the Moon was thought to worsen the symptoms of lunatics, and to sleep in moonlight could make one blind, or mad.[4] Nyctalopia (night blindness caused by a lack of vitamin A) was thought to be caused by sleeping in moonlight in the tropics.

"Moon blindness" is a name for equine recurrent uveitis. Moonlight is no longer thought of as the cause.

In the 16th century, moonmilk, a soft white limestone precipitate found in caves, was thought to be caused by the rays of the moon.[5]

Moonlight in art

Joseph Vernet - Night - Seaport by Moonlight - WGA24731.jpg

Seaport by Moonlight by Claude Joseph Vernet

Ed. Manet. Clair de lune sur le port de Boulogne.jpg

Clair de lune sur le port de Boulogne - Seaport of Boulogne by Moonlight by Édouard Manet

Visitor to moonlit churchyard.jpg

Visitor to a moonlit churchyard by Philip James de Loutherbourg

See also


  1. ^ Toomer, G. J. (December 1964). "Review: Ibn al-Haythams Weg zur Physik by Matthias Schramm". Isis. 55 (4): 463–465 [463–4]. doi:10.1086/349914.
  2. ^ a b Kyba, Christopher C M; Mohar, Andrej; Posch, Thomas (1 February 2017). "How bright is moonlight?". Astronomy & Geophysics. 58 (1): 1.31–1.32. doi:10.1093/astrogeo/atx025. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  3. ^ Matthews, Grant (2008). "CERES". Applied Optics. 47 (27): 4981–93. Bibcode:2008ApOpt..47.4981M. doi:10.1364/AO.47.004981. PMID 18806861.
  4. ^ A Dictionary of English folklore, Oxford University Press, 2000
  5. ^ Gessner, Conrad (1555). Descriptio Montis Fracti sive Montis Pilati [Description of Mount Fractus, or Mount Pilatus] (in Latin). p. 54. Retrieved March 12, 2016.

External links

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